Rookie head coach Matt Nagy was only a few missed plays from looking brilliant again this season. Now NFL fans are left to wonder exactly what to make of his decisions after the Chicago Bears fell 30-27 in overtime to the New York Giants.
To be clear, this isn’t about confidence because everything Nagy did Sunday solidified that he’s not afraid to shoot his shot, but his biggest gamble of the week — turning to backup quarterback Chase Daniel in order to give starter Mitchell Trubisky more time to rest his injured shoulder — busted.
In a competitive NFC North, the Bears have already dropped games to the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. An early December game against the lowly Giants would’ve helped push memories of those losses further away. Instead, Chicago snapped a four-game winning streak.
Maybe the Bears beat the Giants if Trubisky had started on Sunday. Maybe not. That’ll be a debate around water coolers in Chicago for the next week. The Bears, on the other hand, now need to prove that no matter the outcome, Nagy’s gamble on starting Daniel was worth it.
In their final four games in the regular season, Chicago will face two division rivals (Packers and Vikings) and the NFC’s best team (Los Angeles Rams). Winning out — or at least winning half — with a healthy Trubisky will show that Nagy was right to bench his franchise quarterback in an otherwise meaningless Week 13 game. But if the Bears stumble down the stretch, this will be another negative in an otherwise dream season. Right up there with Nagy’s decision to play a hurt-Khalil Mack in Miami and Kyle Fuller’s dropped game-winning interception in Green Bay. That’s how slim the margin is.
Nagy’s game-tying decision
It wasn’t just roster decisions that the Bears coach was willing to bet on. Nagy had plenty of in-game opportunities as well — none bigger than his team’s game-tying touchdown.
Nagy had already risked so much on Chicago beating the Giants so what was one more gamble?
Here was his team down seven with first-and-game from the goal line. In the previous two minutes of regulation, Chicago had kicked a field goal, recovered an onside kick thanks to a shocking gaffe from Odell Beckham Jr., converted on fourth-and-three near the red zone and been the beneficiary of a pass interference call in the end zone. Of course the coach of the first-place Bears wasn’t going to play it safe at this point.
It turns out he didn’t need to, either. The twist on the Philly Special that Nagy drew up worked to perfection. Tie game. Overtime. Risk rewarded.
THE PHILLY SPECIAL IN NEW YORK 🤯
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) December 2, 2018
Football fans are likely in for another week of ‘wait-and-see’ with Trubisky, but there have been encouraging signs despite him being inactive on Sunday. The quarterback was cleared to begin throwing again on Friday and even took a short warm-up before the game.
How the Bears handle him at practice this week will be worth paying attention to as Daniel was far from his best against New York. The backup went 26-for-39 passing with 285 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His 75.3 passer rating was lower than all but three games started by Trubisky in 2018.
The Bears need their best quarterback down the stretch. Now it’s time to prove that with an extra week of rest, they’re as close to full strength as possible for the final quarter of the regular season.
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